Posted by: Michael M. Dewalt | December 21, 2008

Eighth Sermon on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

 

And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children. When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. – Matthew 27:55-60

We have seen above how our Lord Jesus declared the fruit and the power of His death in the poor robber, who surely seemed to be, as it were, a damned and lost soul. Now if all those who had previously been taught in the Gospel, and had had some taste of it, were alienated seeing the Son of God die, it would seem that the preaching of the Gospel had been vain and useless. Besides we know that the Apostles had been elected to the condition of being, as it were, the first-fruits of the Church. One could, then, have thought that this election had been a disappointing thing, and that they had been chosen to such office and estate. For this cause it is here declared to us that, although the Apostles had fled and in that was shown a villainous cowardice, St. Peter had even renounced our Lord Jesus and was, as it were, cut off from all hope of salvation, indeed, being worthy to be reputed as a rotten member; yet God did not permit the doctrine which they had previously received to be extinguished and entirely abolished. It is true that St. Matthew puts more faith in the constancy of women than of men. That is in order that we may learn to magnify all the more the goodness of God, Who perfects His power in our weakness. That is also what St. Paul says, that God has chosen the weak things of this world, in order that those who suppose themselves to be strong may bow their heads and not glory at all in themselves. (1 Corinthians 1:19-31.) If it were, then, here spoken of men and of their magnanimity, and that they had followed our Lord Jesus Christ to death, one would take that as a natural thing. But when women are led by the Spirit of God, and there is in them more boldness than in men, indeed, than in those who had been elected to publish the Gospel to all the world, in that we recognize that God was at work and that it is to Him that the praise ought to be attributed. 

Now it is said especially, “These women had followed our Lord Jesus, doing Him service.” Which is to better declare the inclination they had to profit by the Gospel. For it was no small excellence that they left their houses to traipse here and there, indeed, with great effort and even with shame. For we know what the condition of our Lord Jesus Christ was while He went about in the world. He says that foxes have caves and little birds are able to build their nests, but He has nowhere to lay His head. (Matthew 8:20, Luke 9:58.) We see on the other hand that these women had the wherewithal to feed themselves peaceably and at their comfort. When, then, they traipse so without being able to find lodging except with difficulty, they have to go without food and drink, they are subject to many mockeries, they are driven away and molested everywhere, and yet they rise above all that and bear it in patience, we can easily judge how God had strengthened them. However, at the death they still declare the hope that they had in our Lord Jesus Christ. For although they are bewildered, yet if they had supposed that our Lord had come to grief, they could have judged that He had completely failed. For He had spoken to them of the Kingdom of God which was to be restored by His means. He had spoken to them of the perfect bliss and of the salvation which He would accomplish. And where are all these things? We see, then, how these poor women, although they had been bewildered and however much they are troubled, not knowing what would be the outcome of our Lord’s life, nevertheless were held back by His authority. And yet He causes that in the end they could recognize and judge that He had not promised them anything in vain. They have, then, waited for the promise of the resurrection, although according to men they might have judged entirely to the contrary. However, we see how their faith was trained, in order that we might not be troubled beyond measure, if in appearance it seems that we are forsaken by God, and that all the promises of the Gospel are, as it were, abolished, but that we persist nevertheless. For these women give testimony against us, and to our great condemnation, if we fail in such combats. Would we wish a ruder example than what they have endured? However, they were victorious, indeed, by means of faith. 

So then, let us arm ourselves when we are warned of the assaults which Satan makes against us, that we are armed to meet the blow, and we show that we are so supported by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ that although we may not perceive at first glance the fulfillment of what is said to us, we may not cease to rest in Him, and to bring to Him this honor and reverence, that He will show Himself faithful in the end. And we need to be thus proved to the limit. For otherwise we would be too delicate, and even our faith would be deadened, or perhaps we would imagine an earthly paradise, and we could not raise our senses high enough to renounce this world. As also we see it better in the person of the mother of John and James. We know that previously she had been driven by such an ambition that she had wished that our Lord might be seated on His Royal throne, and that He might have had there only pomp and bravery, and that her two sons might have been there as two lieutenants of our Lord. “Command, Lord,” she says, “that one of my sons be at your right hand, and the other at the left.” What a foolish woman! who is mindful only of glory and who wished to see an earthly triumph in her children. Now here is another and very different experience. For she sees our Lord Jesus hanged on the cross, in such shame and disgrace that all the world is opposed to Him, and He is even there, as it were, cursed by God. So we see this, when we shall be led into such a confusion that our spirits will be astonished with terror and anguish, but by this means God robs us of all earthly affections, in order that nothing may hinder us from being raised into heaven and to the spiritual life to which we must aspire. And we cannot do it unless we are purged of everything that holds us back on this earth. That, then, in summary, is what we have to remember concerning these women. 

However, that is not to say that there may not also have been men, but the intention of the Holy Spirit was to put before our eyes here such a mirror in order that we might know that it is God who led these women by the power of His Holy Spirit, and He wished to declare His power and His grace, choosing instruments so feeble according to the world. The like is also seen in Nicodemus and in Joseph. It is true that St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke speak only of Joseph, who came to Pilate, and Nicodemus took courage, seeing he had such a leader. It is true that Nicodemus was a teacher of great esteem. Joseph was a rich man of property, indeed, also a member of the council. However, let us look to see whether there was in them such a zeal as to expose themselves to death for our Lord Jesus, and indeed if during His life they have left their houses to follow Him. Not at all. But when it comes to the death God moves them and incites them beyond all human expectation. We see, then, that God worked here a strange and admirable change, when He gave such boldness to Joseph and to Nicodemus, that they were not afraid of the rage of all the people, when they came to bury our Lord Jesus. Previously Nicodemus had come by night, fearing to be marked with infamy. Now he buries our Lord Jesus, indeed, when He has come to the extremity. God, then, had to give him a new courage, for he had hidden himself, and, indeed, no shadows had been dark enough for him, seeing his timidity and cowardice, unless God had corrected this vice in him. Briefly, we see how the death of our Lord Jesus profited, and that already He then displayed the graces of His Holy Spirit upon these poor people, who previously had never dared to make a declaration of their faith. Now not only do they speak by mouth, but what they do shows that they prefer to be held execrable before all the world and yet be disciples of Jesus Christ, than to lose what they had obtained; namely, the free salvation which had been offered them. 

That is also why it is said that Joseph waited for the Kingdom of God. By this word it is declared to us that we are alienated from God and banished from His Kingdom until He gathers us to Himself for His people. We see, then, how miserable is the condition of men, until our Lord Jesus has called them to Himself to dedicate them to His Father. And if we are separated from this good, woe and confusion upon us! It was a great virtue then to wait for the Kingdom of God, because the Jews had corrupted it, and the occasions of it were great according to the world. For the Prophets had declared, when the people had returned from Babylon, that God would be in such wise their Redeemer that there would be a kingdom flourishing in all dignity, that the Temple would be built in greater glory than ever, that then they would enjoy all benefits, and that it would be a happy life, that all would have rest and that the only concern would be to enjoy God, and bless His Name, and give Him praise. That is what the Prophets had promised. But what is the condition of the people? They are consumed and gobbled up by their neighbors, they are stung, they are molested. Sometimes there is such tyranny that innocent blood is spilled throughout all the city, the book of the Law is burned, and they are forbidden to have a single reading of it under penalty of death. Such great cruelties are practiced that it is horrible to think of it. The Temple is full of pollution. The house of David — what has become of it? It has entirely fallen and the state of things continuously goes from bad to worse. So then, one must not be astonished, if in a people so rough and given to its appetites and affections, there were very few who retained the true religion and who had not lost courage; as we see also that the number of those who endured patiently and who were firm in the faith was very small and very rare. That is said of Simeon, it is said of Anna the prophetess, it is said of Joseph. But why? In a multitude so great, among the Jews in a country so populated, the Holy Spirit sets before us four or five as a thing which was not at all usual, and gives testimony that those people were waiting for the Kingdom of God. But it is in order that we may learn, when everything will be confused and in despair, to have our eyes fixed upon God. And inasmuch as His truth is infallible and immutable, let us remain firm until the end, and let us rise above all troubles, scandals, and perplexities of this world, and however we may groan let us not cease to aspire to what our Lord calls us to, that is, to wait patiently for His Kingdom to be established in us, and yet may it suffice us to have the Gage which He gives us of His Holy Spirit, by Whom He testifies to us of the free adoption He has made of us. When God declares that He holds us and regards us as His children, and when it is engraved on our hearts by His Holy Spirit, when we have daily the doctrine of the Gospel which resounds and rings in our ears, let us be confirmed in the faith and not fail at all, even though things are so confused that one could not imagine them any worse. That, then, in summary, is what we have to remember from this passage. 

Now it is also necessary to note what St. John recites before our Lord Jesus was taken down from the cross: namely, that they pierced His side to see if He had already given up the spirit. For they had not hurried His death as they had with the two robbers. But seeing that it appeared that He had already passed away, they came to probe Him with a blow of a spear, and then they knew that He had died, and so the guards are satisfied. Now it is true that this, if the testimony of the Law were not added, would seem to us a somewhat cold statement. But St. John wished to give us proof that our Lord Jesus was the true paschal Lamb, since by the providence and the admirable counsel of God He had been preserved from every mutilation. For it is said in the 12th chapter of Exodus that they should eat the paschal lamb, but that the bones should not be broken, and that they should remain entirely whole. (Exodus 12:8, 9, 46.) Why was it important that Jesus Christ should not have His bones broken? For it was the common custom, as we see. They did not wish to spare Him, and He was even set in the midst of the robbers to be held, as it were, the most detestable, to be reputed the principal one among wicked men and criminals. We see, then, that God was here at work when He held back the hands of the guards, and even willed that His Son expired in order to be preserved, and that we might have here an evident sign that it was in Him that the truth of this ancient figure had to be fulfilled. Thus, then, we must notice that the Son of God was preserved from all breaking of His bones, in order that we might hold Him for our paschal Lamb, Who is to preserve us from the wrath of God, when we shall be marked with His blood. For we must come to this: that, if He is our Passover, we must every last one be sprinkled by His blood, for without that it profits us nothing that it has been spilled. But when we shall accept Him with this sacrifice, also we shall find there the remission of our sins, knowing that until He washes and cleanses us we are full of pollution. Then we are sprinkled by His blood, by this besprinkling which is made in our souls by the Holy Spirit. Then we are purified and God accepts us for His people, and we are assured; although His wrath and His vengeance is upon all the world, yet He regards us in pity and He owns us as His children. That, then, is what we have to remember from this passage when it is said that the bones of our Lord Jesus were not broken or snapped at all, in order that we may know that what had been declared by a figure in the Law has been verified in His person. 

However, it is also said, “Water and blood came out of His side, and he who saw it has given testimony of it.” When we see that water and blood came out thus, it ought to remind us that it brings to us our purging and the agreement to wipe away our sins, indeed, by His Sacrifice, as St. John speaks in his Canonical letter. (1 John 1:7) It is true that the blood will be able to congeal in death, as that is done by nature, and that with the blood water can come, that is, the most fluid, inasmuch as the color and the thickest part of the blood will have coagulated. But St. John declared, though that may be, that God wished to show wherein the death of His Son profits us: namely, in the first place that by the shedding of blood He is appeased toward us, as it is said that no remission of sins is possible without shedding of blood. For that is why from the beginning of the world sacrifices were offered. God surely declared that He would be propitious to all poor sinners who would have hope in Him; but He wished that sacrifices be added, as if He said that the remission of sins would be freely given to men, because they of themselves could bring nothing of their own, but that there would be the Mediator for recompense. That, then, is how the blood which flowed from the side of our Lord Jesus Christ is testimony that the sacrifice which He offered is the recompense of all our iniquities, so that we are acquitted before God. It is true that we must always feel guilty of that blood, that is, to humble ourselves and to bring us to a true repentance, and to take from us all presumption. But though that may be, we are made certain that God holds us acquitted and absolved by the Name of His Son, when we come to recognize our faults and offenses. And why? Inasmuch as the Sacrifice of His death is sufficient to wipe away the memory of all our transgressions. Now there is the water which implies purging. In order, then, that we may be washed from all our spots, let us recognize that our Lord Jesus wished that the water flowed from His side to declare that truly He is our purity and that we must not seek any other remedy to wash any of our stains from us. That, then, is how He came with water and with blood, and by this means we have all perfection of salvation in Him, and we must not wander about here or there, to be helped from one side and another. 

Indeed, when we shall look more closely, we shall see that there is a striking resemblance between the blood and the water which flowed from the side of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Sacraments of the Church, by which we have the proof and seal of what was done in His death. For having endured what was required for our salvation, having fully satisfied God His Father, having sanctified us, having acquired for us full righteousness, He wished that all that might be testified in the two Sacraments which He instituted. I say two. For there are no more which are instituted in His Word: namely, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. All the rest is only frivolous imagination which came from the audacity and temerity of men. Behold, then, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who displays the power of His death and passion as much in Baptism as in His Holy Supper. For in Baptism we have testimony that He has washed and cleansed us of all our pollution’s, so that God received us in grace as if we came before Him pure and clean. Now let us recognize that the water of Baptism has not this effect. How can a corruptible element be sufficient for the washing and purging of our souls? But it is inasmuch as the water flowed from the side of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us come then, to Him Who was crucified for us, if we wish that Baptism may be useful to us, if we wish to experience the fruit of it, that our faith may address itself to our Lord Jesus Christ, Who wishes that we seek all the elements of our salvation in Him, without rambling and bending here and there. And then in the Holy Supper we have testimony that Jesus Christ is our Food. And under the bread He presents to us His body, under the wine His blood. This, then, is the full perfection of salvation, when we are thus purified, and God accepts us as if we had only integrity and righteousness in us: and so we are acquitted before Him of being any longer blameworthy, since our Lord Jesus Christ has fully satisfied for us. That, then, is how we must profit from the Sacraments, apply ourselves with all our faith to our Lord Jesus Christ, and not turning to any creatures at all. That also is how we are to be made sure of what was done by the death and passion of our Lord Jesus, and let our memory be daily refreshed by it when God shows us with the eye how much He valued it that from the side of our Lord Jesus Christ there proceeded blood and water. 

So this in summary is what we have to remember concerning the saying that the side of our Lord Jesus Christ was pierced. Indeed also in this word, when it is said that the Scripture was fulfilled, may we recognize what has been said at greater length already, that is, that all has been governed by the secret counsel of God, and although the guards did not know what they were doing, yet God put into effect and execution what He had pronounced both by Moses and His Prophet Zechariah. We have already seen the testimony of Exodus. St. John adds as well from the Prophet Zechariah, 

“They shall see Him Whom they have pierced.” (Zechariah 12:10.) 

It is true that God uses that by figure of speech, for He defies the condemners of His Word who were hardened in every rebellion and malice. Or perhaps, he says, “It seems to them that they make war against men who preach My Word, and that they can hinder them by this means. Now it is against Me that they fight, and when they thus despise and reject My Word, it is as if they wounded me by blows of a dagger; and so they shall see Him Whom they have pierced.” But that was truly fulfilled in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ; for even in His human body He was pierced. That, then, is how He was declared the living God Who had spoken from all time by His Prophets, since in His person all that had been promised is seen. 

Now it is said consequently that Joseph, having obtained from Pilate permission that the body of Jesus Christ might be taken down from the cross, and that it be given to him for burial, had a clean winding-sheet and bought also some aromatic ointments (indeed, for a great sum, as it appears by St. John) of myrrh and aloes, and that he buried Him in a new sepulcher which he had made for himself (sic), which was hollowed out of a rock. In this sepulcher our Lord Jesus Christ already began to show the outcome of His death, that is, He soon was to come into the glory of His resurrection, and God willed to manifest it completely. This, then, is still an infallible testimony, that, among so many confusions of what we read in the narrative which could trouble us and shake our faith, we perceive that God always cared for His only Son as for the Head of the Church, and for His Well-Beloved, not only in order that we might be able to hope in Him, but that we might confidently expect, since we are members of His body, that the fatherly care of God will also surely be extended to us and to each one of those who hope in Him. 

However, one might ask why our Lord Jesus Christ wished to be buried so carefully. For it surely seems that such sumptuousness as aloes, myrrh, and like things was superfluous. In fact, what good is it to a dead person that he is washed or anointed or a great parade is made in honor of him? It would seem, then, that this was not in harmony with the teaching of the Gospel, where it is said that we shall rise at the last day through the inestimable power of our God. So it seems that all such pomp ought to be rejected and forgotten about. Consequently, one might judge that Joseph had a foolish devotion, which would tend to obscure the hope of the resurrection. But we have to note that the Jews had such ceremonies until our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished what was required for our salvation. And the sepulcher was for that time as the sacrifices, and washings, and lights of the Temple, and all like things. For that people, according as it was uncultured, had to be treated like little children. It is true that by all the world the grave is considered to be holy, and God willed that this be engraved upon the hearts of men, even of Pagans, in order that there would be no excuse at all for men to become like brutes, to have no hope of a better life. The Pagans have abused it. But be that as it may, they will be reproached for this to the last day, that they had a great care in burying the dead, that there was no nation so barbarous that they did not always make much of that. They did not know the reason of it any more than of their sacrifices, but it was a sufficient condemnation, when they remained aloof from the truth of God and they corrupted the testimony that He gave them, in order to draw them to faith in the heavenly life. Be that as it may, the grave in itself has always been, as it were, a mirror of the resurrection. For the bodies are put in the earth as if in keeping for a time. If there were no resurrection at all, it would be just as well to throw them away in order that they might be eaten by dogs or by savage beasts. But they were buried honorably, to show that they would not perish at all, although they did go away in decay. Especially the Jews had some ceremonies. It is true that the Egyptians surpassed them in many ways, but they were only fanfares to make a great mourning party, to bewail themselves, to tear their hair. The Egyptians, then, did that, but the devil had bewitched them so that they perverted all order. As for the Jews, who made use of the grave, it was to confirm them in the faith of the resurrection. 

So, following what I began to say, our Lord Jesus was willing to be buried according to ancient custom, because He had not yet accomplished all our salvation with respect to the resurrection. It is true that the veil of the Temple was torn at His death. And by that God showed that it was the end and perfection of all things, and that the figures and shadows of the Law no longer remained. However, that was not yet apparent to the world, and there was no one who was capable of recognizing that in Jesus Christ all the figures of the Law had come to an end. For this cause, then, He still wished to be buried. So much for one item. Now we know that in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ life has been acquired for us, so that we ought to go right to Him, not seeking any other means to lead us than those which He has assigned to us. We have already said that He has given us two Sacraments to serve us as full confirmation. If the manner of burial which the Jews observed were necessary for us, there is no doubt at all that Jesus Christ would have wished only that it remained permanent in His Church. But it is no longer necessary that our attention be arrested by these earthly and puerile elements. It suffices us, then, to have a simple manner of burial, leaving these aromatic ointments, which do not typify the resurrection, which has been manifested in our Lord Jesus Christ. We would only separate ourselves from Him, if we wished to have such base instruction. For we see that St. Paul says, 

“If our life is on high, there we must seek it in faith and spirit,” (Colossians 3:1) 

and we must be joined to our Lord Jesus. (1 Corinthians 6:17.) Let us reach out toward Him, let us not be wrapped up in anything which might distract, hinder, or retard us from being united to Him as to our Head, since it is said that His body was the Temple of God. That, then, in summary, is what we have to remember about the grave. 

There is yet to consider that He was put in a new sepulcher, which was not done apart from the particular providence of God, for He could well have been put in a sepulcher which had served for a long time. Also Joseph of Arimathea had his ancestors, and usually in such rich and opulent houses there is a common sepulcher. But God foresaw it from another viewpoint, and willed that our Lord Jesus should be put in a new sepulcher wherein no person had ever been laid. For it also was not at all without cause that He is called the first-fruits of the resurrection and the first-born from the dead. However, one might say that many have died and have been made sharers of life before our Lord Jesus Christ. Lazarus had been raised. And we know also that Enoch and Elijah were translated without natural death, and were gathered into life incorruptible. But all that depends on the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must, then, cling to Him as the first-fruits. In the Law the fruits of a year were dedicated and consecrated to God, when they brought only a handful of wheat at the altar, and a bunch of grapes. When, then, that was offered to God, it was a general consecration of all the fruits of the year. And when also the firstborn were dedicated to God, it was to declare the holiness of the line of Israel, and that God accepted it for His inheritance, that He had reserved it to Himself being satisfied with that people, as a man will be satisfied with his patrimony. Also when we come to our Lord Jesus Christ, let us recognize that in His person we are all dedicated and offered, in order that His death may give us life today, and that it may no longer be mortal as previously. This, then, is what we have to observe with respect to the new sepulcher, that the sepulcher of our Lord Jesus Christ ought to lead us to His resurrection. 

However, let us look at ourselves. For although everything which ought to help our faith was accomplished in the person of the Son of God, although we have testimony of it which ought to be sufficient for us, yet in our uncouthness and weakness we are still very far from coming to our Lord Jesus Christ. And for this reason let each one of us, recognizing his faults, reach toward the remedies, and let us not lose courage. We see what Nicodemus and Joseph did. Now we have to consider two things for our example. The first is that they are not yet clearly enlightened concerning the fruit of the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is, then, some crudeness and their faith is still very small. The other, that nevertheless in such extremity they fought against all temptations, and they came to seek our Lord Jesus dead to put Him in the sepulcher, protesting that they were hoping for the blessed resurrection, which had been promised to them, and they aspired to it. Since it is so, then, when we experience some feebleness in us, may that still not hinder us from taking courage. It is true that we are weak, and God could reject us if He dealt with us in strictness. But when we experience these failures, let us know that He will accept our desire, although it is imperfect. Besides, today, since our Lord Jesus is raised in glory, although we must still endure here many privations and miseries, and though it seems that daily He is crucified in His members, as truly the wicked, as much as is in their power, crucify Him; let us not fail on that account, knowing that we cannot be disappointed in what is promised to us in the teaching of the Gospel, and, although we must pass through many afflictions, yet let us look always to our Head. Joseph and Nicodemus had not at all this advantage which we have today: that is, to contemplate the power of the Spirit of God which showed itself in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet on that account their faith was not entirely deadened. 

Now, since our Lord Jesus calls us to Himself, and with a loud voice He declares to us that He has ascended into heaven, in order to gather us all together there, let us persist constantly to seek Him and to follow Him, and let us not consider it an evil thing to die with Him to be sharers in His glory. Now St. Paul exhorts us to be conformed to Jesus Christ, not only with respect to His death but also with respect to his burial. (Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12.) For there are some who would be content to die with our Lord Jesus for a minute of time, but at length they get tired. For this reason I said that we must die not only once, but we must suffer patiently to be buried until the end. I call it death when God wills that we endure so for His name. For though we are not at first dragged to the fire or condemned by the world, yet, when we are afflicted, there is already a species of death which we must endure patiently. But, because we are not so soon humiliated, we must be beaten for a long time, and there we must preserve and persist in patience. For as the devil never ceases to plan what is possible for him to distract and debauch us, so all our lifetime we must not cease to fight against him. Although this condition may be hard and tedious, let us wait for the time to come when God calls us to Himself, and let us never cease to make confession of our faith, and in that let us follow Nicodemus, but not in his timidity. When he came previously to the Lord Jesus Christ, he hid himself, and he did not dare to show himself a true disciple, but when he came to bury our Lord Jesus, he declared and protested that he was of the number and of the company of believers. Since it is so, let us follow him today in such constancy. And although our Lord Jesus with the doctrine of His Gospel is hated by the world, indeed they hold Him in detestation, let us not fail to adhere to Him. Let us even recognize that it will always be all our happiness and satisfaction, when God will accept our service, and let us know that, if we must languish in this world, the fact that our Lord Jesus has come into the glory of His resurrection is not at all in order to be separated from us, but that at the proper time He will gather us to Himself. 

Besides, one must not be astonished that our Lord Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day. For it is very proper that He had some privilege above the common order of the Church. In this was also fulfilled what is said in Psalm 16, 

“Thou wilt not permit Thy Holy One to see corruption.” (Psalm 16:10.) 

The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, then, had to remain incorruptible until the third day. But His time was set and established by the counsel of God His Father. On our part we have no time assigned, except the last day. So let us wait until we have languished as long as it will please God. In the end we shall know that at the proper time He will find means to restore us, after we shall have been entirely annihilated. As also St. Paul exhorts us to that when he says that Jesus Christ is the first-fruits. (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23.) This is to retard the ardent zeal with which we are sometimes too much carried away. For we wish to fly without wings, and we are offended if God leaves us in this world, and that at the first sign of struggle He does not withdraw us into Heaven. We wish to be led there in a chariot of fire like Elijah. Briefly, we wish to gain our triumphs before having fought. Now to resist such cupidity and these foolish desires, St. Paul says that Jesus Christ is the first-fruits and we must be satisfied that in His death we have a sure pledge of the resurrection. So it is, since He is seated at the right hand of God His Father, exercising all dominion both above and below, although. His majesty has not yet appeared, and though our life must be hidden in Him, that we are there like poor dead persons, and that while living in this world we are like poor lost people. Nevertheless it is proper for us to suffer all that until our Lord Jesus comes. For then our life will be manifested in Him, that is, at the proper time. 

This, then, is what we have to observe with respect to the sepulcher of our Lord Jesus Christ, until we come to the last which will show us that not only has He satisfied for all our sins, but also that having obtained victory He has acquired for us perfection of all righteousness, by which we are today acceptable to God, to have access to Him and to call upon Him in Christ’s name. And in this confidence we shall bow in humble reverence before His Holy Majesty, praying to Him that He may receive us in mercy, that however poor and miserable we may be, we may not cease to have our refuge in His mercy. Although from day to day we provoke His wrath against us, and though rightly we deserve to be rejected by Him, may we wait nevertheless for Him to show the fruit and the power of the death and passion which His only Son endured, by which we have been reconciled, and may we not doubt that He is always Father to us, especially when He will do us the favor to show that we are truly His children. May we declare this in fact, in such a way that we ask nothing except to be entirely His own, as also He has bought us at such a price, and rightly we ought to be fully reformed to His service. Inasmuch as we are so weak that we do not know how to acquit ourselves of the hundredth part of our duty, still He worked in us by His Holy Spirit, because always the weaknesses of our flesh carry with them so many struggles and fights that we can only drag ourselves along, instead of walking properly. 

May it please Him to strip us of all this, and may we be joined to Him.


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